Ever since I made my first macaroni necklace in kindergarten, I’ve loved arts and crafts. Whether that meant gluing plastic beads to a piece of construction paper for a project in second grade (I like to think of myself as an abstract artist), or painting portraits for national art competitions in the past couple of the years, I’ve always been a visual person.
Up until recently, it had never occured to me that I could decorate my brace, and much to my chagrin, I finally realized how creative you can get AFTER I stopped wearing my brace. However, if you find yourself bored, or watching a dozen episodes of Friends a day (I know I’m guilty), you can easily sit down with a few supplies and glam up your brace. Here are my favorite ways to decorate your brace:
Drawing In first grade, I used to draw paw prints all over my homework, to the point where my teacher was so concerned that she met with my parents to discuss my “issues”. Even today, I find myself doodling in Calculus or Chemistry, hence why I’m always confused on the homework. Costco is a quick drive away from my house, so I stopped by and picked up one of those mega-sized packs of sharpies - it has every color in the rainbow...something I could only dream of.
Patterned Plastic The last time that I met with my doctor, he mentioned that the manufacturer for the plastic for braces has started offering patterns for the plastic. Is this new? I don’t know, but I do know that there are quite a few options, and there seems to be different designs for any and everyone.
Stickers Here comes the fun part. I swear I’m a five year old in a sixteen year old’s body. I. LOVE. STICKERS. This isn’t permanent, so you can re-decorate however your heart desires. I like shopping Michael’s and Amazon for my favorite stickers. I generally like to have a common theme so every couple of weeks that I change the stickers, I change the theme. Sometimes it’s food, or animals, or just cute stickers I have lying around...the possibilities are ENDLESS.
Signing Whenever someone asks me what my brace is, I basically just tell them it’s like a cast with velcro. Hence, I’ve always wondered why people sign casts, but not braces. But fear not, you can get people to sign your brace. As weird as it is, a lot of my closest friends that know about my brace have signed my brace and left a note or an inside joke. Again sharpie is great for this.
Bent not Broken For any of my fellow simplistic friends, this is a great option for you. Not only is it motivating (and a great name for a blog *wink wink*), but this is super quick and easy. I just used a black sharpie to write the words on my brace, and the words have lasted for the few months that they have been there.
Hopefully you can find your inner artist...whatever that means to you. Whether you haven’t picked up a marker for years, or you’re the next Picasso, there are plenty of different options for decorating your brace. If you are loving and fully accepting your brace life right now (go girl!), or you could not stand to look at the thing, let alone spend time decorating it, know that having a brace gets easier with time and, no matter what, we’re bent, not broken! :)
Even at the rippling age of 16, I am still in love with stuffed animals. There’s something about snuggling up in bed with my ratty (or, well-loved) Curious George under one arm and Pauly, my WWF Build-a-Bear Polar Bear under the other.
You would not believe what these animals have helped me through...as cliche as it sounds, having someone, or in my case, something, to listen to you can make all the difference. My animals have listened to me complain about everything from my brace to the ending of The Fault in Our Stars (which, I mostly just cried about...anyone who didn’t is inhuman).
Then, I recently discovered Higgy Bears, and I wish that I’d known about them sooner. Higgy Bears is a company, founded by Lauren, a scoliosis patient, that makes stuffed animals with a brace or a cast. Who would’ve thought? The company as a whole is inspiring in the awareness that they are raising about scoliosis and the impact they are having on kids who wear a brace or have had to have surgery.
The company provides a wide variety of different animals, and even makes different types of braces! Not to mention that they can customize a brace for an animal/doll that you already have. And, an extra bonus...there’s free shipping! That’s always a plus ;). I’m in love with the bear and the giraffe...so cute!
The mission of Higgy Bears and the impact that they have had on the lives of patients has made the scoliosis community as a whole so much stronger. Especially when a patient is young and doesn’t know anyone else with scoliosis, it’s nice for them to have something else in their life that has a brace...Higgy Bears says it perfectly...their bears “make scoliosis BEAR-able”. I’m a sucker for a good pun. A special thanks to Lauren for pursuing her idea and creating Higgy Bears!!!
To check out the bears, visit www.higgybears.com
It’s companies like Higgy Bears that help us to remember we’re bent, not broken! :)
Air travel is one of the few things that never fails to blow my mind; no matter how many cramped seats I’ve sat in, I will never cease to be amazed. There’s something about sitting 30,000 feet above ground in a hunk of metal that gives me a thrill. Once the adrenaline from blasting towards the clouds has worn off, it’s hard to ignore how cramped the seats are and how stuffy the plane can get. I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest fan of long-haul flights (who is?), and it doesn’t help that my little plastic friend (i.e. my brace) always decides to make these flights even more uncomfortable.
I’m no expert when it comes to packing...I often resort to the “it’s better to be prepared” mantra, and essentially, pack my entire house into a suitcase. But for my brace, specifically, I’ve narrowed down the list to a few essential items. I love traveling, and have learned that I cannot let my brace get in the way of checking off all of the places on my bucket list. Here is my survival guide for long haul flights (and remember when you are 6 hours into a 12 hour flight and your brace is pinching you and you can’t fall asleep, we’re bent, not broken! :)
Walk Around and Stretch It is important - brace or no brace to keep your blood circulating. Even if this means walking up and down the aisle of the plane once or twice, I have found that movement makes a huge difference in staying as comfortable as possible on flights.
Hydrate With the high elevation, my already dry skin, especially under the brace, gets completely chapped...there are times when I resemble more of a snake than a human. I try to make a point to bring lotion, like Kiehl's Creme de Corps or Aveeno's Daily Moisturizing Lotion to put around my torso when I get off the flight and am able to take off my brace. I also suggest that you drink a ton of water to keep your body as hydrated as possible.
Comfortable Clothes Again, this applies to all people, not just scoliosis patients, but it is especially important for those with scoliosis, because it’s harder to find comfortable flight-friendly clothes for the brace. I prefer to wear high-waisted leggings or sweats and a t-shirt and sweatshirt to keep comfy.
Distract Yourself When uncomfortable, I try to distract myself. I usually bring a book (I haven’t been able to put down Little Fires Everywhere lately...the writing is STUNNING), download new games for my phone right before a trip, or try to find a good tv series/movie (one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies: “That is the name given to me, by me.” - ahh it gets me every time!). I have never been able to sleep very well on flights, but if you are able to sleep, that is also a great distraction.
Pillows To find a comfy position, I use pillows. Sometimes the airplane I’m on offers pillows, but I usually try to bring at least one pillow with me on the plane to put behind my back (I refuse to be separated from Pete, my Panda Pillow Pet). If you don’t have room for a pillow, a rolled up jacket could work well, too.
Finding a Comfortable Position The most comfortable position that I’ve found for wearing a brace is either both feet flat on the ground, or curled up in a ball, with my feet next to me. Each person has a different position that works best for them, so you just need to experiment until you find what works for you.
A Change of Clothes Sweaty, clammy clothes are not fun, and unfortunately, I’ve had to learn this the hard way. I’ve found that changing the shirt you wear under your brace can make a world of a difference - whether it’s during the flight, or even right after you land before you get to the hotel. Not only does packing extra clothes prepare you for the chance that your luggage gets lost somewhere in the mystical world of baggage claim, but changing is a nice way to freshen up.
If you were to look in my room right now, you would probably think I was some sort of hoarder - it's a bit of a tornado. Aside from that, I make sure to keep the rest of my life organized, but we all have a junk drawer (or in my case, just an entire room dedicated to messiness) in our life. Luckily, my brace and health fall into the organized category.
This includes cleaning my brace...I can't stand the thought of germs separated from my body by only a thin peace of clothing. Although cleaning your brace (at least in the way I do) won't get rid of all of the stains, it does kill off any bacteria that might be in the way, and that thought gives my mind ease.
Cleaning your brace is quick and easy, and definitely worth the couple of minutes that it takes. I use rubbing alcohol to clean my brace. It's especially easy to use if you put it in a spray bottle, which is what I do. I spray the alcohol around the inside of my brace, making sure to cover the entirety, but not using an excessive amount. Then, I use a paper towel to rub the alcohol away from the inside. Even though its safe to put on right away, I generally like to wipe the brace over again just to be sure that everything is dry. I then let it air out for a few minutes before putting it back on
I've found that this routine just helps my brace to stay that much cleaner and gives me a few minutes to just chill out and think. Hopefully you find this helpful in cleaning your brace, and even though it might be a hassle, remember, we're bent, not broken! :)